Microsoft Showcase Classroom

(c) @GlennWoolaghan [Twitter]

Yesterday I spent the day with Microsoft looking at their Showcase Classroom. I really did not have a clear perception of what to expect other than looking at different mobile devices. So what did the day entail (and was it worth it!)?

Firstly it was free other than the cost of getting to London, Victoria and back for 10:00am – 3:30pm. A cup of coffee and a pain-au-chocolate later and we was shown a brief “Sway” presentation before the big reveal, doors slid open in our relatively small room, showing a much larger room with bright colours, comfy stool and giant bean bags. We grab a mobile device… this is going to be interactive! I pick a rugged grey “Stone” tablet with keyboard and a carry handle, colleagues pick HP tablets or Surface Pro’s – they all do the job they need to do.

We are asked to rate out the following out of four possible options: Don’t know what it it, aware, used a bit, used a lot using coloured post-it’s.

  • Windows 8.1 – its search capabilities and seamlessness
  • Yammer – social networking in a safe environment
  • Office 365 – buckloads, I even learnt about “Delve” (did you know a 365 account gives you 5 downloadable office’s?)
  • OneNote – the collaborative side utilising OneNote Classroom
  • OneDrive – limitless
  • Lync (Skype for Business) – connect to others and record sessions!

Now I was able to answer “used a lot” for all but that’s more a comment upon the organisation I work for and the projects I am involved in. I found the delivery that followed upon these technologies well thought-out and verging on seamless. a worthy day for the less tech proficient for sure. We had an outline of Mix and Sway (yes I felt an over whelming smugness) and then a hard-sell pitch for taking back-end services and pushing to our learners – progress, options, etc. (way off but lord-able goals). Finally we had highlighted windows 10 and  HoloLens.

I certainly found the day worthwhile but I took a number of key things with me…

  1. The organisation I work for are certainly embracing the tech discussed
  2. Although the room looked funky the backless “stools” were not nearly as comfortable as the “sit-in” bean bags
  3. Despite discussing how being untethered from the front of the classroom is ideal, it wasn’t applied (beyond a demonstration)
  4. A number of technologies will not work fully until we are in a 1-2-1 device position (such as OneNote)
  5. I cannot see myself bringing everything together under one platform, I am all for diversity in technology (Our D.A.V.E. intranet covers the likes of Delve and Yammer)
  6. Finally, there was a lot of discussion around learners subverting the technologies. More of this on a future post.


Living with the Surface RT [Day 100]

Surface RT

I have hit 100 days with the Surface RT and I can say that they only thing about it that has been an uphill struggle has been this blog (only at times!). I certainly would have liked it to be more educational that it has been but attempting to blog daily has limited that. Id on’t intend to stop blogging, but I do not intend beyond today to blog on a daily (or attempt) basis but I do feel that this entry should look back at what I have tried to do and where i still/want to go with the Surface RT.

  1. Connecting wirelessly to another display
  2. Tethering to my phone for when I cannot get Wifi (made some headway – Bluetooth only real solution from a cost perspective, and so far not needed to!)
  3. Finding at least one good app (and free) for all categories (a bit ambitious now the categories have expanded i.e. sport & government not my thing!)
  4. Trying to write this blog from the Surface itself (setup has been on a PC, entries have been on an iPhone 5)
  5. Not writing this blog retrospectively (which it has up till now!)
  6. Purchase & use a stylus

I still have a few projects/research pieces involving the Surface RT that will be a part of this blog.

  • Tethering to my phone for when I cannot get Wifi (from my original list above)
  • Micro HDMI to mini HDMI adapter (on order)
  • VGA adapter (on order)
  • Working with whole groups of students and staff to utilise tablets in the classroom

I do have to say that I have not powered up my works laptop since July 2013, the Surface RT has been a great replacement and the abilities it has serves it well:

  • light
  • portable
  • Small form factor
  • Amazing battery Life
  • Productive (especially love office and OneNote app)
  • App store is starting to mature


I am going to have to dust off the laptop, if only because I’m teaching game engines and the software is on my laptop ready to utilise. I am still holding out hope that miracast will come to the Surface RT (although knowing it not coming), but overall I don’t see myself being drawn back to the iPad.

In fact I would probably be persuaded to move onto a Surface Pro or similar tablet/laptop device.



YouTube on the Surface RT [Day 71]

There is no official YouTube app but there are a number of good third party apps. In order of ability/functionality:


  • Allows for website navigation
  • Search
  • Download as…
    • Video
    • MP3 (downloads as video before converting)
  • Upload to YouTube
  • Upload to SkyDrive
  • History (requires login to your YouTube account)
  • Watch Later

Hyper for YouTube:

  • Allows for website navigation
  • Search
  • History (no login required)
  • Download as…


  • Search
  • Uploads
  • Favourites
  • Play Later


QR Codes and the Surface RT [Day 34]

2013-09-23 12-11-23


Within my organisation we have had another push with QR Codes, many staff have been at a loss on how to read/generate such codes. So I thought a short post on solutions to both sides would be appropriate (as a number of posts have been about familiarisation with the Surface RT not actually educational practice so far). Both apps have been chosen for their simplicity.

Scan [click here for Windows Store info]
Simply aim the rear camera at the QR Code and  you will presented with the interpreted information, if it is a website you are prompted with an option to visit the URL. The App also keeps a history of scan for later retrieval.

QR Creator [click here for Windows Store info]
A clean interface that allows you to quickly choose from a range of QR formats (such as text, URL, SMS, Twitter, etc.).  A dialogue box on the right-hand-side allows for modifying of the QR Code such as content, size, colours and final generation.  What I really like about this App (and puts it above others is that it has the ability to share directly with other apps such as SkyDrive rather than limiting to saving as an image locally). As in the scanning App your history is retained for recall.



Productivity with a Surface RT [Day 27]

Today the Surface RT saved a colleague. All our IT systems were down – the Internet, file servers, printing, email, Moodle. A file with feedback needed to be seen and edited as necessary. Two mobiles, a Surface RT and a USB drive saved the day…..

My colleague could access his email on his phone but could not see the document with changes…

  1. the email was forwarded to me
  2. I opened the email and saved the file to my SkyDrive account
  3. I opened my SkyDrive on the Surface RT (wi-fi was up and running for a moment – perfect timing)
  4. I sent the file to the USB stick (beat that iPad)
  5. colleague opens the file on his desktop to see feedback and make changes
  6. Our networked printers accept ISB sticks!

A job well done.


OneNote on the Surface RT [Day 23]

Screenshot (18)

In regards to OneNote on the Surface RT, it does have its limitations such as no video and no audio. But coupled with SkyDrive it is an amazing notetaking resource, throw into that the use of a stylus and I have now even removed those notes that I make on scraps of paper that eventually get lost or washed in my work trousers (admittedly the important things are typed up and retained).

But now my productivity is up and even the comments that I note-down that don’t seem important after any such meetings are retained.


SkyDrive on the Surface RT [Day 13]

So in an earlier post I discussed cloud services, such as dropbox, pogoplug, etc. With the Surface RT Microsoft’s cloud offering Skydrive features predominantly (not only in Windows 8 but in Office 2013) and with the Windows RT 8.1 update this is only set to continue.

SkyDrive (to be renamed in the near future) is effectively an “in the cloud” service that allows your files to be held remotely and synchronized over multiple devices with apps not only for the windows 8 environment but as smartphone apps such as the IOS environment and as an installable application on the windows platform (such as windows 7).

What this allows you to do is transfer images, such as a photo or screenshot, from the Surface RT to a desktop, or visa versa. Although a USB could suffice using SkyDrive provides a seamless experience.

Sending documents:

  • Select the desired file, such as an image from the photos tile, by dragging down (the tile will have a tick appear on the top right hand corner) further file selections will will add to the amount of the files to be shared
  • Swipe the charms menu and select the share icon (the second icon down a circle with three knots)I
  • Select SkyDrive and select where you want to send/store your file(s)
  • Confirm by selecting upload

To access files in your SkyDrive

  • Select the SkyDrive app
  • Move thought the folder until you reach the desired file
  • Swiping up from the bottom of the screen will reveal options
    • download
    • manage
      • rename
      • delete
      • move
    • open with…… (Appropriate apps)
  • choose an appropriate option


Beyond SkyDrive & the Surface RT

So my brain has been toying with SkyDrive ( or whatever it is to be renamed as ) and the measly 7Gb. I say measly as SkyDrive was originally 25Gb and MS downgraded all accounts to 7Gb other than existing users that registered to retain 25Gb (thanks to JB for confirming).

To be fair 7Gb is not a bad capacity as most alternative offer only 5Gb and some even 2Gb. So how do you get more capacity? Well you can do a number of things…

  • Acquire a range of these services, admittedly this can be a headache.
  • Referrals, some offerings allow you increase your capacity with each referral by 500mb.
  • Look for introductory offers, these can range from 10Gb -50Gb.

So the top five big ones (for personal use) :

I have used all five offerings, more recently SkyDrive in readiness for the Surface RT and just like Dropbox,Google Drive and Box you can install a small piece of software whereby any files placed in a designated location on your machine will sync with the cloud space.

I utilise  the Pogoplug a lot because of it versatility. The pogoplug offers a slightly different dimension than the others mentioned in that it not only offers cloud storage but it offers software that you can place on a desktop machine and share a range of folders and drives (Yes these locations must be powered up) as well as a hardware device that you can purchase a small Linux powered box (for around £50) that can share anything plugged into its USB ports (the amount of ports is dependant on the model) and even attach compatible printers. This is a low power device that is silent with mine currently hosting three memory sticks. Effectively I now have over 1500Gb of accessible storage space, although this is slow access when away from home due to the slow upload speed of my broadband connection (other than the 20gb cloud space) it is perfectly acceptable at home and when I finally shift from copper loop to fibre (imminent!) it should really come into its own. It should be noted that it does Sync to the cloud but only what you have on your Pogoplug Device (info here).